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Kosova reports 1998

Report from independent source

Situation in Kosov@

No fighting has been reported in the Drenica area since the weekend. The Serbian police have declared that they have "destroyed the core" of the alleged KLA base in the village of Prekaz, and that while they are looking for remnants of "terrorist" forces, the main thrust of their activity is now over.
BPT in Prishtina reported the impression many Albanians have that the police is settling down for a longer-term presence in the area.There is a sense of uncertainty as to whether the main action is now over, or whether the past few days have been merely a chance to catch our breath.
Belgrade media reported Monday that military forces in Albania were still massed at the north-east border to Kosov@ and on the highest state of alert.

After being closed for five days, the road from Kosovska Mitrovica through Srbica/Skenderaj to Pec/Peja was reopened on Monday, according to B92. The road from Belgrade and Nis to Prishtina remains open, and travel to Belgrade has been relatively unproblematic. A state-run bus coming from the south-Serbian city of Leskovac was stoned during the protests last Monday, and a contact of ours in Leskovac reports that since then no busses have traveled from there to Kosov@.

The situation in Prishtina is reportedly still tense but quiet. Police presence is still strong on the streets, which are absolutely empty of pedestrians after nightfall. BPT in Prishtina reports that taxi drivers have said that they are even nervous about being out after dark in their cars because of the police. Stores are open again and fully stocked, and prices are as usual. A local Serb denied Albanian television reports that Serbs had been evacuated from Prishtina. Many have left the city, however, and student housing at the official university is reported to be very empty. Classes have been postponed from the beginning of last week.

The Helsinki Committee in Serbia reported that around 5,000 displaced Albanians were hiding in villages around Kosovska Mitrovica. Humanitarian organizations report that the people are difficult to find, because many of them are "hiding".

Reports of how many people died last week vary. The bodies of 62 Albanians reportedly killed in the fighting were returned to their families Monday; the families have said that they will not bury their dead until international experts have had time to perform autopsies on the bodies to confirm the way in which they died. BPT in Prishtina reports that the bodies of 26 people, predominantly women and children, were returned by the police to their families Monday. We will provide more exact information as soon as it is available.
Eleven people from the Jashari and Ahmeti families from Prekaz, who were the focus of the police attacks, were buried during the week. Witnesses report that the bodies were disfigured, and local Albanians are speaking of a "massacre" in Drenica. Civilians were also reported to have been killed with knives.

Following a call by the Independent Student's Union of the University of Prishtina, the Union of Trade Unions of Kosova and the co-ordination council of the Albanian political parties, several tens of thousands of Kosov@ Albanians demonstrated in Prishtina and other cities on Monday. The crowd, which according to Albanian sources was the "largest in the past ten years", was estimated to have been 50,000 to perhaps even 100,000 (BPT estimate) strong. In Prishtina, police allowed the protesters to gather in the center of town. Theme of the protest was "For peace, against violence, war and Serbian terror". The protesters carried banners saying "Drenica", "Republika Kosova", and "We are not terrorists". BPT observers saw one police cordon during the protest, which did not intervene, and said that the police allowed ample room for the crowds to disperse. A British journalist (for Channel 4/ITN) was severely beaten by unidentified people in civilian clothing while filming the demonstration from in front of Hotel Grand.
A similar demonstration, about 20,000 strong, was held in Kosovska Mitrovica without incident. Police intervened in Pec/Peja, Klina, Istok and Djakovica/Gjakova. Only sketchy information was available in Prishtina Monday night. Belgrade media reported variously that the police used truncheons and teargas, and in Istok and/or Lipljan they reportedly fired their weapons into the air. We do not as yet have any information on numbers of wounded.

The organizers of the student protests had not yet decided Monday night whether or not to go ahead with their protest scheduled for Friday, 13 March. They will probably decide by Wednesday evening. At any rate they say that protesting for a return to their university buildings would not make sense at the moment, such that any protest they organize will most probably include political demands.

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